Computer ArtsInterview

M&C Saatchi

Graham Fink joined M&C Saatchi as creative director in 2005, after a varied career working at Collett Dickinson Pearce, WCRS, Saatchi & Saatchi and GGT. asks him, and a couple of his team, about working at the award-winning M&C Saatchi agency

At CDP, which he claims "at the time was probably the greatest and most creative agency in the world", Graham Fink worked on Benson & Hedges cigarettes and Olympus camera campaigns. Then after three months at WCRS, a row with a colleague resulted in him throwing a TV out of the window. The story got back to Paul Arden (creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi), who offered him a job. His four years there included writing and art directing the British Airways 'face' commercial, in which 6,000 people made up the huge features in BA corporate colours.

Computer Arts Projects: What was your big break into the advertising industry?
Graham Fink:
After studying graphic design at Reading, I put a book together like everyone else, went round about 120 interviews trying to get a job, and eventually went to CDP in London, who had done fantastic work like the 'Heineken refreshes the parts...' campaign, Hamlet cigars, Benson & Hedges, and Silk Cut. They said it was a good book but they were looking for someone older and more experienced. So I dressed up as an old man, went back the next day and they gave me a job! That was amazing: I was in the best place in the world, and I learnt very quickly from everyone there.

CAP: What is it about advertising design that you enjoy above all other areas of design?
GF:
It's just a great platform from which to express yourself through different forms of creativity - whether it's TV, music, posters or whatever.

CAP: And how much work do you now do for online adverts?
GF:
I love online - I think it's in its infancy, and stuff is changing every month, so it's very hard to keep up. Next month we're going to sit together with our digital department so it'll be much more integrated, which is very exciting and I think that's really important. A lot of agencies have friction between their creatives and the digital people, which I think is insane. It's another channel for your creativity, and it's a lot less expensive. Just now, I was talking to the team about our Ladbrokes account, and instead of running a 30-second TV commercial that would cost millions of pounds in airtime, we could make an online film. Not only would that be much cheaper, but you can target people more and they can interact with it, and Ladbrokes casino is all about people interacting with the site to play games and win money. So TV is fantastic, but online is such a great new form of creativity.

CAP: Who are the people to watch, and the people who inspire you?
GF:
There's tremendous talent everywhere. The great thing about online is that it makes the world even smaller - we can send work we've done to people in America, Australia and India, and watch theirs, send them comments and forward the link to other people. I sent someone a link to the 'Illusions' commercial we've just done for Transport for London, a graphic piece directed by Peter Saville. It's only been out a week but it's apparently the most viewed piece of animation ever on YouTube. That's really exciting.

CAP: What issues do you think advertisers need to be aware of?
GF:
Online is changing everything. Lots of people are talking about user-generated content and we need to be aware of that - you see thousands of pieces of work being uploaded every hour to YouTube. Even though a lot of the stuff isn't particularly great, people are now able to share their own personal sketchbooks. Everyone can use software like Photoshop or Illustrator, and then upload the result, show it to the world, and get feedback on it.

CAP: What's your favourite advert, and why?
GF:
Recently I've been a big fan of the Cadbury gorilla ad. But the one I saw when I was at art school was the very surreal Benson & Hedges 'Iguana' cinema commercial, shot by Hugh Hudson, where a helicopter drops a big box into a swimming pool in the desert. An iguana in the pool becomes a diver holding a huge key and, as he opens it, you realise the box is a B&H gold pack. Finally, as it pulls back, you see it's a poster on Battersea Bridge with the power station in the background. I think at the time it was the most expensive commercial ever made, and I remember watching it in a damp cinema in Reading, and thinking, "I've got to get into this business if you can go and make stuff like that."

CAP: What advice would you give to other designers wanting to work in advertising?
GF:
Don't do it unless you really want to, because it's very hard, and very hard to get into. But if you're determined, you're never more than a flash of inspiration away from a world-shattering idea. You can be sitting in a meeting room for hours trying to come up with something, then you switch off, go and make a cup of tea, and flash - you get this idea, and you don't know where it's come from. You can get in the way of yourself if you think too much, so just do the research, then stop thinking, go for a long walk, have a shower, make a cup of tea, feed your ferrets, and the flash will come. And you have to have fun - too many people are serious!

CAP: Where do you think the future of advertising is going - will print ads be replaced by online?
GF:
No, I think there will just become more and more opportunities for designers to work in advertising with the increase in digital. And I think the printed page will always be around - people like reading books, and I don't know if they like reading 400 pages on a computer. It's not the same experience. So I think it can all exist together, it's not one thing at the expense of another.

We also spoke to David Anderson and Ian Brassett, two of M&C Saatchi's creatives€

CAP: How did you get your jobs here?
David Anderson:
We've both worked here for 18 months. After Graham Fink gave us a four-month placement together, we were hired last Christmas. We graduated in graphic design from Reading in 2001 and we both wanted to work in advertising. We tried to get a job separately but everyone told us it was too hard and it would take ages.
Ian Brassett: And they were right!
DA: So then we got a joint portfolio together. We kept going round, and then Graham gave us our first placement. In between, Ian worked at a printers, and I had part-time jobs in discos, and cleaning!

CAP: What advice would you give to other designers wanting to work in advertising?
DA:
Persevere. If someone says you're rubbish, it's just their opinion - the next person might say you're brilliant. Just keep doing what you think is right.

CAP: Can you talk us through a typical day as an advertising creative?
IB:
Every day is really different. I thought we'd just be coming up with ideas all day, but that's probably not even 50 per cent of it. There are things like rewriting scripts, and redoing layouts, lots of variety.
DA: If you're lucky, you might get two weeks to work on an idea; if you're unlucky, you might get an hour!
IB: When you look back at stuff you did at college you think, "How did that take me three months?"

CAP: What's your all-time favourite ad, and why?
DA:
The blackcurrant Tango one is good, from around 1996, with the French exchange student who sends a letter to Tango saying he doesn't think it's as good as the other flavours, and then it just pans outside to this huge scene - it's really funny.
IB: There's a really funny one for the One Touch can opener with a man with a bad wig on. As the can opens itself, his wig starts to spin around too.

CAP: What is it about advertising design that you enjoy over all other areas of design?
DA:
It's a big challenge, trying to think of something that no-one else has thought of.
IB: It's just so much fun, not like a proper job! I love thinking of ideas and making each other laugh.

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